The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been a war of attrition with either side unable to make much headway. While Russia continues to pummel Ukrainian cities with airstrikes, missiles, and drone attacks, Ukraine may have recently shot down a handful of Russian aircraft, including a few helicopters, though reports are conflicting about the reason they crashed. Either way, this is no doubt a significant blow. Assets such as fighter jets and helicopters are hard to come by – even for Russia. (Here is every plane in Russia’s air force.)
Helicopters have become indispensable in the modern military as they offer versatility in performing various tasks and operations. Ranging from search and rescue operations to swift transport of supplies, helicopters have also proven their worth in combat missions. Today we are taking a look at countries with the largest helicopter fleets.
To determine the 21 countries with the largest helicopter fleets, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Helicopter Fleet Strength by Country (2023) compiled by GlobalFirePower, an annually updated defense-related statistics website with information on 145 countries. Countries were ranked by the number of helicopters in their active military fleet. Supplemental information about the most common helicopter in each air force came from the 2023 report, World Air Forces, from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry website. Military expenditure data for 2022 came from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Military Expenditure Database.
Leading the pack on this list is the United States, which has the most significant helicopter fleet in the entire world. The U.S. possesses over 5,500 helicopters that play a number of roles. Helicopters make up a sizable chunk of U.S. military aircraft, which already boasts the largest air force in the world.
Russia comes in second, with a fleet of more than 1,500 helicopters. The Russian rotorcraft industry has consistently improved its capabilities, resulting in innovative and cutting-edge helicopter designs, such as the renowned Mi-8/17/171, which make up a considerable portion of its air force. This family of helicopters remains a popular choice among many countries worldwide.
The third-largest fleet belongs to China, which has just under 1,000 helicopters. China has been in a decade-long process of modernizing and updating its military. Still, the country’s most common helicopter remains the Russian Mi-17/171 aircraft.
Not surprising, countries that spend more on their military tend to have larger helicopter fleets, and those with larger overall air forces tend to have much larger helicopter fleets. (These are the largest air forces in the world.)
Ultimately, these nations’ sizable helicopter fleets demonstrate the importance of rotorcraft assets in modern military operations. The innovation and advancements in helicopter technology can help provide combat superiority and aid in disaster response.
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